How does it provide more economical driving?
[UPDATED 6/25/13] With the introduction of the 2013 model year Nissan LEAF, Nissan has introduced some changes to the LEAF drive modes. We suggest that you read this article first but then continue on to our most recent article on the 2013 LEAF drive modes (found here).
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There seems to be some confusion among LEAF owners and potential LEAF owners about what exactly the ECO drive mode does. Let’s take a closer look.
First a brief discussion on the shifter operation. Move the mouse forward to go backward and move the mouse backward to go forward. What’s up with that? Pretty simple answer. Nissan discovered that 90% of Nissan LEAF reservationists were Toyota Prius owners. Guess what the shift pattern is on the Toyota Prius?
Nissan likely felt that it was not in their best interest to alienate 90% of their potential customers right off the bat by making them change the way that they had been shifting for years. And since the whole idea of just a forward/back mechanism is different than a traditional PRNDL automatic transmission layout, they probably figured – Let’s go with what has already been established. So that is very likely why the shift pattern is what it is.
The real question of the moment is – what is the difference between Drive mode and ECO mode? Our distance til empty meter jumps up about 10% or so, but why?
As you have noticed by now (or will if you have not driven a LEAF yet), when you place the car in Drive mode from Park, the dash display tells you that you are in D for drive. The same movement of the mouse a second time (to the left and back) places the LEAF in ECO mode. This is all the Nissan LEAF owner’s manual has to say about the LEAF’s ECO mode:
In actual practice, the ECO accelerator pedal changes its mode of operation when selected. Keep in mind that you are just moving, in effect, an electric dimmer switch with your foot. One which can be programmed. When you select the ECO mode of operation, you change the mode of the ECO pedal to be less responsive and offer greater physical resistance. This is in addition to the effect on the heater and air conditioner noted above. Nissan developed the ECO pedal in 2008 and has been using it in the United States on the small 2011 Juke crossover since its introduction in 2010. The result is an increase of fuel efficiency on the order of 5% to 10% depending on driving conditions, according to Nissan’s research.
As you can imagine, if the benefit is derived primarily from the movement of the pedal, it requires pedal movement to do its job. No pedal movement, no benefit. We put it that way for a reason. If you are driving steady state down the freeway at XX miles per hour, the LEAF doesn’t care which mode you’re in – its biggest efficiency obstacle is getting through the air. So the ECO mode is not going to really do you any good if most of your driving is commuting on the freeway. If, on the other hand, you run multiple errands around town or are stuck in rush-hour traffic with stop-and-go freeway conditions, the ECO Pedal will do its thing and remind you to press more slowly on the accelerator to preserve electrons (or gasoline in the Juke).
This caused an acquaintance to ask about acceleration and responsiveness when in the ECO mode. As the design of the pedal is to influence behavior, it will by definition provide less responsiveness whether on the freeway or around town. But Nissan has a very strong safety orientation, and has for some time. We’ll put up another post about that in a couple of days. So, even when in ECO mode, when the accelerator pedal is floored, full power is provided. Safety trumps economy. If you are requesting full power, you must need it for a reason. “All ahead warp speed Mr. Scott!”
There you have it. Nissan’s ECO mode in a (relatively large) nutshell.